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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 26 May 1943

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Forced Labour Convention

I.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any information as to whether the provisions of the Forced Labour Convention have been accepted in respect of the Belgian Congo and the Portuguese African Colonies?

The Portuguese Government have not ratified this Convention nor have they, so far as I am aware, signified their intention of doing so. A Bill providing for the ratification of the Convention was submitted to the Belgian Chamber before the invasion of Belgium but had not been considered when the invasion occurred.

When a suitable occasion occurs, will the good offices of His Majesty's Government be used to persuade any Powers concerned to ratify?

This is a matter for the Government concerned, but I will consider what my hon. Friend says.

Civil Aviation

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will give a guarantee that after the war all moneys, facilities, aerodromes and aircraft of Air Transport Command will immediately be ceded to those controlling civil aviation?

Transport squadrons will no doubt form part of the Royal Air Force after the war, their number depending on the size and distribution of the Force. I cannot therefore give the all-embracing undertaking for which my hon. Friend asks. Such resources of Transport Command as are not, however, required for Royal Air Force purposes and are suitable for civil air transport will, I hope, become available for the latter role.

Does it mean that civil aviation will get only the outcasts of the Royal Air Force and machines they do not want?

It means that the requirements of the Royal Air Force must be met first and that such surplus as is available will be, I hope, given to civil aviation.

Bombers (Losses Over Germany And Western Europe)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Air how many British bombers were lost over Germany and Western Europe during April; and whether he is in a position to give similar figures for American or British aircraft piloted by American pilots?

267 British and 28 American bomber aircraft operating from this country were reported lost over Germany and Western Europe during April, 1943.

That means that 699 bombers have been lost since 1st January this year over Europe and Germany. Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that some of them could not have been put to more useful purpose by being used in protecting the Western approaches?

Is it true that Herr Hitler is building an ark against the flood in the Ruhr?

Aircraft Production (Sir Charles Bruce-Gardiner)

5.

asked the Minister of Aircraft Production whether the recent appointment of Sir Charles Bruce-Gardiner is to be a full-time job; and whether he is continuing to draw a salary from the Society of British Aircraft Constructors?

The answer to the first part of the question is "Yes" and to the second part "No, Sir."

Can the Minister say whether this gentleman was paid £10,000 a year by a select number of aircraft producers to preserve the monopoly of that select number?

I am afraid that I do not know what the gentleman's salary was or the purpose for which it was paid.

Will the Minister make inquiries, and if the facts are as stated, will he see that this gentleman's wings are effectively clipped?

Ministry Of Works (House Alterations)

6.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works the estimated cost of the additions and alterations being carried out by his Department to a house, particulars of which have been communicated to him?

The estimated cost of additions and alterations to the house is £1,625. Supplementary hutting, &c., to be erected in the grounds is estimated at present to cost £6,405.

Royal Navy

Wound Pensions (Pre-1914–18 War Service)

7.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he will consider raising the rate of pensions to sailors who lost limbs, when on duty, prior to the war of 1914 to 1918 to the same scale as now obtains for similar injuries?

Sailors who served in the last war and were again invalided, and all those disabled in earlier wars, receive the rates payable to men similarly disabled during the last war. These are slightly greater than the present rates. Otherwise, payment is at present rates for similar injuries, subject, in the case of those who were not mobilised, or were not specially exempted from mobilisation in the last war, to the conditions laid down in the Pensions (Increase) Scheme of 1920.

Would my right hon. Friend look again into the possibility of restoring the position which obtained at the time of the last war whereby a man who had lost a limb and was yet able to serve could be paid his wound pension while he was serving?

I have had a look at that already, but on looking at the Report of the Select Committee of 1920, I think that the judgment of the House then was the right one.

Admiralty Vehicles (Fuel And Rubber Economy)

9.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what organisation is concerned to see that there is no misuse of either fuel or rubber by Admiralty vehicles or vehicles employed for Admiralty purposes?

There is a special Fleet Order on this subject. Worksheets are compiled by the drivers of all Admiralty vehicles showing the journeys performed, the mileage run, and the amount of petrol expended, and these are examined to ensure that transport is economically used. Returns of petrol expenditure are forwarded by all Naval Establishments to Admiralty fortnightly for examination and investigation where necessary. Admiralty contractors are only authorised to despatch material by road where conveyance by rail is impracticable.

Uganda (Migrant Labour)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the result of the investigation into the conditions of migrant labour in Uganda; whether a number of migrant labourers, entering Uganda from the Belgian Congo, are liable to forced labour in that territory: and whether he can give any information as to the physical condition of these labourers on entering into Uganda?

I have not yet seen the report of the investigation referred to in the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend on 27th January, but it is being considered by the Governor, who hopes to authorise a beginning this year in the construction of camps and dispensaries for labour entering Uganda from Ruanda Urundi. The second part of the Question, as to whether some of these emigrants are liable to forced labour in the Belgian Congo, should properly be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. They are, of course, not recruited compulsorily for work in Uganda. As regards the third part, pending receipt of the report just mentioned, I have no detailed information, but according to a recent report from His Majesty's Consul at Costermansville, natives leaving for Uganda are in possession of money and a stock of food and there are shelters and dispensaries at frequent intervals along their route in Ruanda.

Would my right hon. and gallant Friend consider placing copies of the report in the Library of the House?

I have not seen it yet, but when I see it I will certainly consider that.

Bahamas (Shop Assistants' Hours)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any information regarding the provisions of the new legislation relating to the hours of shop assistants recently passed by the Bahamas House of Assembly; whether the provisions in this new legislation meet with his approval; and whether it was supported by the Government of the Bahamas?

The Bill in question-was introduced into the Bahamas House of Assembly at the instance of a Select Committee of the House. I have not yet received the text of the law from the Governor and his observations on it.

Did not this new legislation arise out of the recommendations of the Commission on the Bahamas, and was it not introduced by the Government and turned down by the Representative Assembly? Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman look into the reasons which were given for its being turned down?

I am afraid that there must be some misunderstanding. The Bill to which the hon. Member refers was not introduced by the Government. It was introduced as the result of a Select Committee of the House itself, and I am awaiting both the Bill and the Governor's report on it.

British Guiana (Drainage And Irrigation Plan)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any information regarding a proposed 20-year drainage and irrigation plan for British Guiana prepared by the Governor of the Colony; whether this proposal has been submitted to him; and whether, in view of the importance of irrigation work in British Guiana, he will give the proposal his early and favourable consideration?

I have received particulars regarding a long-term drainage and irrigation plan for British Guiana. This extensive proposal, which raises issues of the greatest importance for the future of the Colony, is under active and sympathetic consideration, and at the present moment I am waiting for certain additional information which it has been necessary to request from the Governor.

Jamaica

Railway Workers' Conditions

13. Mr.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has considered the memorandum from the Jamaica Government Railway Employees Union dealing with the conditions of labour on the railway; and what it is intended to do to improve these conditions and to create a happy relationship between the Government and the railway workers?

I have not received the memorandum referred to. I am asking the Governor to furnish a copy with his comments.

Has the trade union in question the same negotiating machinery out there as we have in this country?

I would not say that it is exactly the same, but there is a big trade union movement in Jamaica.

Banana Industry

14. Mr.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the position of the Jamaica banana industry; what assistance is now being given to this industry by His Majesty's Government; and is it planned to maintain the banana plantations or to allow them to go out of production?

Since November, 1940, shipping difficulties have seriously affected the export of Jamaican bananas, and exports have now virtually ceased. To prevent a collapse of the industry. His Majesty's Government have met the cost of the purchase of all exportable fruit after allowing for the proceeds of any sales. This has enabled the employment of labourers to be continued for the maintenance of the plantations and the transport of the fruit. Practically the whole crop is now consumed locally. His Majesty's Government have recently agreed to- continue to assist the industry on the above lines for a further period of two years from 1st July, 1943. This assistance is designed to ensure that a sufficient nucleus of the plantations is maintained in a state of efficiency to enable a rapid expansion to normal proportions of trade to be effected when exports are again possible.

While the Government subsidy is being continued will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman make sure that the wages of the plantation labourers are not unnecessarily reduced?

Yes, Sir, but I should hope that the machinery would ensure that, subsidy or no subsidy.

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend see that the bananas are used to improve the nutritional situation in the West Indies?

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether the export of bananas from Jamaica to America and Canada has ceased altogether?

Is any research being undertaken into the possibility of processing bananas in order to preserve their nutritional value?

Local Government And Census Returns

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the persons required for the reconstruction of local government in Jamaica have yet been appointed; whether they have already commenced their duties; and whether the census for the basis on which the registration of voters under the new Constitution has yet been completed?

An expert on local government has been sent from this country to advise the Jamaica Government in this matter. He arrived in Jamaica last February, and his visit is expected to last a year. The census returns are not yet complete.

Colonial Development And Welfare

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is satisfied that all African and West Indian Colonies are taking advantage of the facilities provided by the Colonial Development and Welfare Act to obtain grants or loans to expedite urgently-needed improvements in urban and rural water supplies for their indigenous population up to the limit of technical and supervisory man-power and available plant; and, if not, whether he will encourage them to do so?

I am satisfied that, in view of the great shortage of man-power and supplies alluded to by my hon. and gallant Friend, Colonial Administrations are taking as much advantage of the Act as possible. A total expenditure of £478,270 has already been approved in respect of schemes for the improvement of urban and rural water supplies in East and South Africa, St. Helena and the West Indies. This total does not include provision for irrigation, drainage and river survey schemes. Four other similar proposals are under consideration. All Colonial Governments have been urged to submit development plans and I do not consider any further action is called for.

Nigeria (Conscripted Labour, Tin Mines)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can give an assurance that he is satisfied with the rations provided for conscripted labour on the northern Nigerian tin mines and with the arrangements to safeguard these workers' health?

While the latest reports which I have received show that there is still room for improvement, conditions in the minefield continue to get better, and in particular there has been a substantial increase in the corn ration. I am satisfied that the Nigerian Government are doing all they can despite the inevitable difficulties created by the war to safeguard the health of the workers.

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say how many medical officers are employed in the Nigerian tin mines by the various companies?

I could not give the exact figure, but we are waiting for the completion of the necessary building to appoint extra medical staff in the area.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman state exactly what the rations are that he considers sufficient?

Seychelles (Venereal Disease)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why it has been made a criminal offence for any unmarried woman under 30 years of age to live in the town of Seychelles, unless she is living with her parents or employer, or is a properly appointed school-teacher or probationary nurse?

A Defence Order was made to prevent the renting of rooms in houses in the central and suburban districts of Mahé for immoral purposes, in view of the serious danger of spreading disease among the personnel of visiting ships and troops stationed in the Island. In addition to the exceptions referred to by my hon. Friend, the Order does not apply to any young woman who satisfies the Superintendent of Police that she is in bona fide employment, either on her own behalf or for monthly wages, or has any other good reason to stay in any house or room in the prescribed area.

Does not the Minister consider this is a very gross infringement of the rights of these people? It would not be tolerated for a minute in this country. Would it not be better to take steps to eliminate the venereal disease which is so current in Seychelles?

That would be desirable anyhow, but the position in Seychelles was really grave, and drastic steps had to be taken. I admit that this step is a drastic one, but I believe that in the circumstances it was fully justified.

Could not we adopt different medical methods for safeguarding the population there from this complaint?

Ceylon (Constitution)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is in a position to make any statement with regard to constitutional reform in Ceylon?

Yes, Sir. His Majesty's Government stand pledged by the assurance given to Ceylon Ministers in 1941 that as soon as possible after the war the question of the reform of the Constitution would be further examined. With the object of defining more precisely their intentions in this matter, His Majesty's Government have now authorised the Governor of Ceylon to make a further statement. In view of the length of the statement, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate the text of it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

In view of the very unsatisfactory situation that has arisen in this Colony, and the fact that the old Constitution never has worked satisfactorily, will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman consider setting up a Royal Commission at the earliest possible moment to consider the amendment or revision of the Constitution?

I entirely agree with what the hon. and gallant Member has said about some of the aspects of the present Constitution. He will find the suggested procedure set out in the statement. What His Majesty's Government would prefer is that, subject to certain broad principles, the people in Ceylon should themselves put up their idea of a Constitution, and then after the war they and we can discuss the details.

Following is the statement:

Ceylon Constitution

In 1941 the following assurance was given to the Board of Ministers in Ceylon:

"His Majesty's Government have had under further consideration the question of constitutional reform in Ceylon. The urgency and importance of the reform of the Constitution are fully recognised by His Majesty's Government, but before making decisions upon the present proposals for reform, concerning which there has been so little unanimity, but which are of such importance to the well-being of Ceylon, His Majesty's Government would desire that the position should be further examined and made the subject of further consultation by means of a Commission or Conference. This cannot be arranged under war conditions, but the matter will be taken up with the least possible delay after the war."

After further consideration, His Majesty's Government have decided that it is in the general interest to give greater precision to the foregoing statement with the object of removing any doubts regarding His Majesty's Government's intentions. Accordingly, His Majesty's Government have asked the Governor to convey to the Board of Ministers the following message:

  • 1. "The post-war re-examination of the reform of the Ceylon Constitution, to which His Majesty's Government stands pledged, will be directed towards the grant to Ceylon by Order of His Majesty in Council, of full responsible Government under the Crown in all matters of internal civil administration.
  • 2. His Majesty's Government will retain control of the provision, construction, maintenance, security, staffing, manning and use of such defences, equipment, establishments and communications as His Majesty's Government may Seem necessary for the Naval, Military and Air security of the Commonwealth, including that of the Island, the cost thereof being shared between the two Governments in agreed proportions.
  • 3. Ceylon's relations with foreign countries and with other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations will be. subject to the control and direction of His t Majesty's Government.
  • 4. The Governor will be vested with such powers as will enable him, if necessary, to enact any direction of His Majesty's Government in regard to matters within the scope of paragraphs 2 and 3 of this Declaration; and his assent to local measures upon these matters will be subject to reference to His Majesty's Government.
  • 5. The present classes of reserved Bills in the Royal Instructions will be largely reduced under a new Constitution. Apart from measures affecting Defence and External Relations it is intended that these shall be restricted to classes of Bills which—
  • (a) Relate to the Royal Prerogative, the rights and property of His Majesty's subjects not residing in the Island, and the trade and shipping of any part of the Commonwealth:
  • (b) Have evoked serious opposition by any racial or religious community and which in the Governor's opinion are likely to involve oppression or unfairness to any community:
  • (c) Relate to currency.
  • 6. The limitations contained in the preceding paragraph will not be deemed to prevent the Governor from assenting in the King's name to any measure relating to, and conforming with, any trade agreements concluded with the approval of His Majesty's Government by Ceylon with other parts of the Commonwealth. It is the desire of His Majesty's Government that the Island's commercial relations should be settled by the conclusion of agreements, and His Majesty's Government will be pleased to assist in any negotiations with this object.
  • 7. The framing of a Constitution in accordance with the terms of this Declaration will require such examination of detail and such precision of definition as cannot be brought to bear so long as the whole of the energies of the service and other Departments of His Majesty's Government must remain focussed on the successful prosecution of the war. His Majesty's Government will, however, once victory is achieved, proceed to examine by suitable Commission or Conference such detailed proposals as the Ministers may in the meantime have been able to formulate in the way of a complete constitutional scheme, subject to the clear understanding that acceptance by His Majesty's Government of any proposals will depend—
  • First, upon His Majesty's Government being satisfied that they are in full compliance with the preceding portions of this Statement; and

    Secondly, upon their subsequent approval by three-quarters of all members of the State Council of Ceylon, excluding the officers of State and the Speaker or other presiding officer.

    8. In their consideration of this problem His Majesty's Government have very fully appreciated and valued the contribution which Ceylon has made and is making to the war effort of the British Commonwealth and the United Nations, and the co-operation which, under the leadership of the Board of Ministers and the State Council, has made this contribution effective."

    Omnibus Traffic, London (Queues)

    21 Mr.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that the regulation requiring queueing at omnibus stops is frequently not being observed, especially at busy stops such as Parliament Street; and will he take more strin gent measures to ensure that weaker and less physically active passengers may get a fair chance of boarding omnibuses?

    The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport
    (Mr. Noel-Baker)

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to this important matter. I think, however, that as a general rule, the travelling public have willingly accepted the Order which imposes an obligation to form up in queues; I think that they recognise that it is designed for their own convenience; and that they are readily carrying it out. So far as their man-power allows them to do so, the London Passenger Transport Board post officials to ensure order at important stopping places during busy hours; but I am informed that the intervention of these officials is rarely required. It is not possible to make separate queues for the omnibuses running on each of the different services which travel northwards up Parliament Street, but I will make special inquiries into the conditions there.

    Would my hon. Friend take a look to see particularly what happens once the queue has been formed? The queue is formed all right, but then people make a rush when the bus arrives.

    I know that difficulties do arise. It is because it is physically difficult to make separate stopping places for the different groups of bus routes, and so the people in the groups get mixed. In Parliament Street it is a very difficult problem.

    Railway Tickets (Non-Manual Workers>

    22.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether he is aware that certain railway companies, especially in the London area, discriminate against non-manual workers in issuing travel tickets at lower rates on the false assumption that they receive higher wages than manual, workers; and whether he will take action to remove this anomaly?

    Workmen's tickets were originally intended only for artisans, mechanics, and labourers who travelled in the early morning hours; they are now issued to everyone who travels before a certain hour. They have also been extended to artisans, mechanics and labourers who are employed on shift turns of duty, and who must, therefore, travel outside the normal hours of issue. Some other concessions have also been made, but it has been decided, after mature consideration, that any general extension outside the normal hours would be both impracticable and undesirable. My hon. Friend will see that the respective rates of wages earned by different categories of passengers have nothing to do with the limitations imposed on the issue of workmen's tickets.

    Will the hon. Member bear in mind that when these cheap tickets were first issued it was on the assumption that non-manual workers were better off than manual workers, and now that the position is very nearly reversed could we not have a universal system on the railways which would meet the problem?

    I am well aware that this whole matter is full of anomalies, which arise out of a history extending over more than 70 years. I have given the fullest possible consideration to the matter, I have seen many deputations on the subject, and I think I have been able to satisfy them that it is impracticable to make changes in war-time and that the changes, if made, would bring more harm than good.

    Merchant Shipping Losses (Publication)

    23.

    asked the Minister of Information why reports appeared in the Press of this country of the findings of the Truman Senate Committee that 12,000,000 tons of allied merchant shipping were sunk by enemy action during 1942, when it is the policy of His Majesty's Government not to publish such statistics?

    These reports were first published in the United States and were then sent to this country by cable. If the hon. Member is suggesting that the censorship should have intervened to prevent the publication here of a piece of news which was known to the rest of the world, then I must tell him that such an action would be contrary to all the principles governing the conduct of the British censorship.

    While the right hon. Gentleman will know that I do not want censorship of this sort of thing, does he not think it is anomalous that news about the sinkings by enemy action of ships belonging to us should come via America and that we cannot get the information from our own Government?

    May I point out that this is a very anomalous world, or, at any rate, in some respects an ill-contrived world?

    Post Office

    Aircraft Facilities

    24. Mr.

    asked the Postmaster-General, in view of the development of the helicopter and reversible airscrew, what plans he has prepared for aircraft to take off and alight from the roof tops of the post offices in the centres of the chief cities in Great Britain in order that postal services may be modernized and expedited?

    I am keeping a close watch on the developments to which the hon. Member refers, but, so far as I am aware, they have not yet reached a stage at which the use of helicopters for the conveyance of mails can be considered as a practical proposition.

    In view of the developments that are taking place, will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman consider the position, so that this country shall be ready to take advantage of those developments as they mature?

    Business Reply Service

    25. Mr.

    asked the Postmaster-General whether he has yet decided to terminate the Business Reply Postal Service; and whether, in view of the great convenience to business which this service provides, he will, before taking any action, consult with representatives of business?

    Yes, Sir. It has already been decided to suspend the Business Reply Postal Service as from 1st August next, and a notice to that effect was issued 10 the Press on 21st April. Full consideration was given to the effect of the proposal on the various business interests concerned before the decision was taken. I realise that a certain amount of inconvenience may be caused to large users, but, as I explained during the Budget Debate, this and certain other services are being withdrawn in order that the Post Office may make further savings in man-power in the interests of the war effort.

    Transatlantic Telegraph Services

    26. Mr.

    asked the Post master-General whether he has considered the use of seadromes for speeding up cable communication across the Atlantic; and what action he is proposing to take in this matter?

    The Transatlantic telegraph services are operated by telegraph companies. These companies keep abreast of technical developments and are not slow to adopt them wherever practicable.

    Radio Receivers (Private Motor Cars)

    27.

    asked the Postmaster-General whether he will now permit the installation of radio receivers in private motor-cars?

    Is his decision based on security reasons or lack of equipment?

    India (Mails)

    28.

    asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the many complaints resulting from the failure of men serving in India to receive their letters in a reasonable time; and whether he has any statement to make?

    As regards the transmission of letters from the United Kingdom to India, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer (of which I am sending him a copy) given by my predecessor to the hon. and gallant Member for Taunton (Lieut.-Colonel Wickham) on 15th December last. I am glad to say, however, that since then increased aircraft capacity has become available, with the result that the Post Office has been able to speed up the Airgraph service. The Gd. Forces Air letter with air transmission throughout which was introduced on the 7th December has also effected a considerable improvement in the postal facilities to the Forces in India. The Post Office is not, of course, responsible for the arrangements for the delivery of correspondence to members of the Forces serving in India after its arrival in India, but I am taking steps to bring these complaints to the notice of the authorities concerned.

    Museum Telephone Exchange

    30. Mr.

    asked the Postmaster-General whether he will attempt, by increase of staff, conversion to the automatic system, or other means, to improve the service of the Museum telephone exchange?

    The service at Museum exchange is unfortunately not up to standard. This is largely due to the fact that the equipment is relatively old and difficult to maintain. But for the war, the exchange would have been converted already to automatic working. The installation of automatic equipment was held up for some time owing to war exigencies but is now proceeding. It is, however, unlikely to be completed before the spring of 1944. In the meantime, the Post Office is taking what steps it can to improve the operating efficiency of the Exchange.

    Belgian Children (Food Supplies)

    31. Mr.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he is aware of the heavy mortality among Belgian children due to serious shortage of food; and whether he will grant navicerts to permit, under proper control as to its distribution, the entry into Belgium of say 2,000 to 3,000 tons a month of vitamins, milk and medicine, to be supplied to children under 16 years of age and nursing and expectant mothers?

    While it is, I regret to say, true that the food shortage in Belgium is felt severely by the child population, my information does not confirm that, taking the country as a whole, these conditions have caused any striking increase in child as distinct from infant mortality. According to statistics recently published in Belgium there was, last year, a fall in the death-rate of infants under one year of age. The figures for deaths per thousand live births were in 1939, 73; in 1940, 89; in 1941, 85; and in 1942, 78. As regards milk and vitamins I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave on 19th May to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing (Sir F. Sanderson). Medical supplies in the strict sense of the term are and always have been allowed to pass through the blockade.

    Axis Prisoners Of War (Pay)

    33.

    asked the Secretary of State for War the rates of exchange used in calculating the payment of Italian and German officer prisoners of war?

    As required by the International Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, rates of exchange have been agreed with the Governments concerned at 15 Reichsmarks to the £ and 72 lire to the £.

    Invalided African Soldiers

    34.

    asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will outline the conditions ruling in respect of leave pay and pension received by enlisted African soldiers on being invalided out of the Imperial services through wounds or sickness; whether these conditions are similar in all African Colonies; and whether he is satisfied that they are reasonable?

    The conditions ruling in respect of leave pay are determined by the local commanders and particulars are not available in London. I am obtaining them and will communicate with my hon., gallant and learned Friend as soon as possible. As regards pensions, the position is too complicated to set out within the scope of a Parliamentary answer, but I will send my hon., gallant and learned Friend a memorandum on the subject.

    Public Health (Pasteurised Milk)

    35.

    asked the Minister of Health whether he will make Regulations providing for all vessels from and in which pasteurised milk is sold to the public to be labelled accordingly?

    The special conditions relating to pasteurised milk contained in the Milk (Special Designations) Order, 1936, provide that every vessel in which the milk is transported or exposed or offered for sale shall bear a suitable label with the words "Pasteurised milk."

    Armed Forces

    Overseas Service

    36. Mr.

    asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that unmarried airmen with four years' and married airmen with three years' service overseas are being drafted back to this country by sea, while soldiers with longer foreign service are not being so drafted back; and whether he will take steps to bring the practice of all three Service Departments into line in this respect in order to avoid discriminatory and preferential treatment?

    Every effort is made to equalize the conditions of service in all the Armed Forces, but in war-time this is difficult to achieve.

    Are we then to understand that rules found suitable for the R.A.F. are not to be applied to the Army?

    I do not think I can add anything to my statement. It is very difficult to achieve exact equality of conditions of service.

    Has any effort been made to equalise pay between the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air Force?

    37. Mr.

    asked the Prime Minister whether consideration has been given to the need for the issue of chevrons to indicate service overseas, medals for service in big engagements, and some indication to signify that men or women have been wounded on service; and can he make a statement on this matter making it applicable to all Services?

    These questions are under consideration. I am not yet in a position to make a statement.

    Billeting Allowances

    38.

    asked the Prime Minister whether he will now take steps to remove the present discrepancy between Army and Royal Air Force allowances for billeting,.whereby the Royal Air Force is entitled to draw £1 7s. 8d. per head per week and the Army £1 3s. nd. per head per week, by raising Army rates to the Royal Air Force level?

    The billeting rates in force for the Army are the same as for the Royal Air Force. The weekly rate quoted by my noble Friend for the Army is the rate payable until recently by both Services if only a billet and meals were provided: that rate has from 18th May been increased for both Services. If fires, extra lighting or laundry are also provided additional payments are made by both Services.

    Production Factories (Broadcast Music)

    40.

    asked the Minister of Production whether he has any statement to make regarding the availability of the British Broadcasting Corporation's programme, "Music while you work," for diffusion in factories?

    41.

    asked the Minister of Production whether progress is being made in the negotiations with the Performing Rights Society towards a settlement for a reasonable payment to be made for performing rights in "Music while you work" programmes and similar public performances?

    42.

    asked the Minister of Production whether his attention has been drawn to the decision of the courts that the "Music while you work" programmes in war factories are public performances and therefore subject to copyright; and whether, in order to prevent any discouragement of activities conducive to the war effort, he will consider amending the law to exempt these performances from copyright, or, alternatively, to limit the amount of fee which may be charged for the use of the copyright?

    I am glad to be able to tell the House that as a result of negotiations which have taken place, agreements have been reached with the Performing Rights Society and Phonographic Performance, Ltd., which will make possible the diffusion of broadcast and other programmes of music and gramophone records in factories and other premises engaged on essential work, together with hostels and canteens established in connection with them, free of charge to individual managements. It is intended that the duration of the agreements should be for the period of the war. The sums to be paid annually by the Government to the Performing Rights Society and Phonographic Performance, Ltd., are £25,000 and £7,500 respectively. A full announcement giving the details of the scope and terms of the two agreements is being issued, so that all those affected may know where they stand. I should like to take this opportunity of saying that both the Performing Rights Society and Phonographic Performance, Ltd., have shown a most helpful and cooperative spirit throughout the negotiations.

    I did not quite gather whether the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman are for a period of the war, irrespective of how long the war may last, or whether there is a time limit?

    Manufactured Articles (Silk) Order

    43.

    asked the Minister of Supply whether, as under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Manufactured Articles (Silk) Order (Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 661), it is an offence for any person to acquire or to consume any silk bolting cloth and, seeing that the expression "silk bolting cloth" means any cloth which contains any silk and which has been so woven as a gauze that the mesh made by the warp and weft thereof forms a gauged size of mesh, but does not include any silk bolting cloth which is shaped and hemmed to fit a screen or sieve, he will furnish some simpler explanation for the guidance of the public so that they may avoid committing a punishable offence?

    Silk bolting cloth is a fabric used in industry for sieving and other special technical purposes. The general public are most unlikely to hold any of this fabric and are therefore not likely to be affected by the Order, the terms of which are well understood by the trade.

    Has the Minister met anyone else who understands what this Order means?

    And so does the hon. Member for South Crdydon (Sir H. Williams).

    Food Supplies

    Statutory Rules And Orders

    45.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the reason for the revocation by a direction on 1st May, Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 664, of the Order, dated 23rd April, Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 630; whether the new direction came into operation the day after it was signed, and whether in future longer notice will be given before directions come into operation?

    Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 664 was made on 1st May because the production of milk had increased rapidly and it was desirable to raise the minimum allowance to non-priority customers temporarily to four pints a week to avoid wastage. The new Direction came into force on 2nd May. Where possible several days' notice is given of changes effected by Statutory Rules and Orders. It was, however, in this case necessary to take immediate action to avoid wastage of milk. An announcement was issued to the public and the trade on 29th April before the Order was made.

    While fully appreciating the need for urgency in this case, do I understand the Minister to say that, whenever possible, as long notice as possible will be given before an Order comes into effect?

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why no explanatory note was attached to the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food (Saccharin) Order (Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 669), in order that the significance of this Order might be appreciated without the necessity of obtaining three earlier Orders, published in 1942?

    47.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why no explanatory note was attached to the Emergency Powers'(Defence) Food Rationing (General Provisions) Order (Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 659),.in order that the significance of this new Order might be appreciated without the necessity of obtaining two earlier Orders published in 1942?

    It has hitherto been the practice of my Department to interpret the sense of S.R. and Os. to those whom they affect by means of suitable Press notices. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department will, however, make a statement on behalf of the Government on the use of explanatory memoranda in the course of to-day's Debate, and hon. Members will, I think, agree that I should not anticipate his speech.

    Is it the habit of the hon. Gentleman's Department to consult those who are interested in the particular trade affected before making an Order?

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he can make a statement explaining the basis of the prohibition of the movement of tomatoes contained in the Emergency Powers (Defence) Food Transport (Tomatoes) (Great Britain) Order (Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 658), having regard to the fact that apparently it will be permissible under this Order, on grounds of economy in transport, to send tomatoes from Sussex to Cumberland but illegal to send them from Sussex to Oxfordshire?

    The object of Statutory Rule and Order No. 658 is the even distribution of tomatoes without avoidable cross-hauls and long journeys. It prohibits the movement of tomatoes out of areas where local production is unlikely to exceed local needs; and directs the movement of tomatoes from areas producing in excess of local needs to the most convenient areas needing extra supplies. The Order does not permit, as the Question states, the movement of tomatoes from Sussex to Cumberland.

    Can my hon. Friend say why he did not include in that same Order some kind of restriction on the condition of sales which applied to tomatoes in the early part of last season?

    Food Office, Eye

    48.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that the removal of the food office of the borough of Eye to the premises of the Hartismere Rural District has caused serious inconvenience to old people and, under a system of temporary or voluntary staffing, saves no man-power; and whether he will consider the return of the borough office to the building in which it was established originally?

    This amalgamation involved the moving of the Eye Food Office a distance of approximately 500 yards and ought not to be a cause of inconvenience. The amalgamation was carried out as part of the general policy of economising in man-power, premises, and expenditure by combining offices when two or more exist in one comparatively small town. The matter was carefully considered and my Noble Friend is satisfied that the final decision was right.

    In view of the fact that there is a great number of complaints, not only from Eye but from the surrounding district, and that it is almost impossible for old people to get a mile and a half to this office, will the hon. Gentleman ask his Department or his regional representative to open this matter again with the Mayor and the municipal authorities?

    I do not see how it can affect people in outlying districts. Eye has a population of 1,600 in an area of 18,000 people. I think that people in Eye are not compelled to go a mile and a half.

    In view of the way the local authorities have been treated by his Department, will the hon. Gentleman ask his representative at the regional office to go into this with the Mayor and municipal authorities?

    In response to a letter from my hon. Friend, my Noble Friend did go into this himself in great detail.

    Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

    Local Authorities' Staffs (Overtime Pay)

    49.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food what rate of pay it is proposed to pay local authority staff, whom it is proposed to employ in the evening after their usual work is over, for the purpose of preparing identity cards and ration books for issue; and whether such rates have been approved by the trade union concerned?

    The rates paid to local authority staff employed in the evenings in connection with the writing up of ration books in food offices, are the overtime rates of temporary clerks, Grade III, in the Civil Service. These rates were the subject of national agreement with organisations representing the staff. As an alternative, simplified flat rates have been authorised at the option of the local Food Executive Officer. These special rates have not been the subject of agreement with the staff.

    Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that these rates are entirely inadequate, and that there are town clerks in the country who are refusing to apply them because of the objections of the staff to work under such rates?

    I was not aware of that. I would say that the simplified fiat rates are better than the rates about which agreement has been reached.

    They are the overtime rates for temporary clerks, Grade III, of the Civil Service. They were the subject of full agreement with the organisation which represents the staff.

    Is the Parliamentary Secretary not aware that the practices obtaining in most food offices are determined by the town clerks, and that they usually relate to practices determined by the local urban district councils, who do not believe in paying any overtime to local government employees?

    I would not be able to say, because these officers are employees of the Government; they are civil servants.

    Confectionery Points, Shetland Isles

    51. Mr.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food why differentiation is made in points for confectionery in Northern Ireland on the ground of the length of time taken by supplies to reach Northern Ireland from Great Britain, whereas no such concession is made to traders in the Shetland Isles situated much further from the main land of Great Britain?

    The reduction to which my hon. Friend refers was applied to the Shetlands as well as to the rest of ' Great Britain because supplies were, in general, being delivered more quickly to the Shetlands than to Northern Ireland.

    Is the Minister aware that it takes 14 hours longer by steamship to go to the Shetlands than to Northern Ireland?

    Poultry

    52. Mr.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that table fowls unfit for breeding, rearing or laying are being sold nominally for these purposes at auctions throughout the country as a cover to the payment of prices in excess of those permissible for table poultry; that the declarations under which these sales take place are, in many cases, worthless and both render his Department's orders ineffective and waste time and man-power in difficult enforcement investigations; and whether he will take prompt action to remedy this?

    I am aware that some poultry bought at auctions ostensibly for breeding, rearing or laying is slaughtered for food. The matter is under discussion with the Agricultural Departments, and it is hoped to take remedial action at an early date.

    Can I be assured that there is no real stumbling block at the Ministry? It does seem that this practice has been going on for well over 12 months. I wonder whether the Minister does mean a real, urgent, drastic change or only a modification of the Order?

    I can assure the hon. Member that we are extremely anxious, I think as anxious as he is, to stop this undesirable practice.

    National Milk And Vitamins Schemes

    53.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will amend the National Milk and Vitamins Schemes so as to provide that widows and children shall not be deprived of free milk or vitamins as a result of the reassessment of income in consequence of the death of the husband or father?

    Yes, Sir. The regulations of the National Milk and Vitamins Schemes have now been adjusted to allow widows and children of Service men to continue to receive free milk and vitamins, where such widows and children were receiving these commodities free of cost prior to the death of the husband or father, provided that the normal weekly income from all sources remains unaltered except by the substitution of a pension for the Service allowance. The concession will be extended to widows and children of men who were not Service men where the circumstances are parallel.

    Will the Parliamentary Secretary convey to his noble Friend the great gratitude of many widows at the removal of this anomaly?

    Londoners' Meals Service

    56.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food the average charge and the average cost of meals under the meals service of the London County Council?

    At the present time the average receipt per customer served in restaurants of the Londoners' Meals Service is 12.26 pence and the average expenditure 11.60 pence.

    57 and 58.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (1) whether he is satisfied with the efficiency of the co-operation between the London County Council, the local agent and the local superintendents in the running of the restaurants for the Londoners' Meals Service;

    (2) in view of the fact that the number of teachers employed in the meals service of the London County Council has been reduced, whether he will see that they are replaced by caterers with professional knowledge so as to ensure the best results in the administration of the restaurants in the service of the public?

    Responsibility for the operation of the Londoners' Meals Service, including the appointment and supervision of staff, rests with the London County Council, which has administered its undertaking, in difficult circumstances, in an admirable manner. My Noble Friend therefore sees no reason for the adoption of the course suggested by my hon. Friend.

    In view of the fact that the hon. Gentleman's Ministry has been charged with the efficient and economical distribution of food, will he set up an inquiry under an independent chairman to inquire into the meals service of the L.C.C.?

    No, Sir. I think that general experience is that the Londoners' Meals Service is excellently administered, and many hon. Members have had very good meals there.

    Soft Fruit (Distribution)

    59.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will ensure that better arrangements are made this year than last for the distribution of Southern-grown soft fruit to the Northern districts of England?

    The soft fruit crop is too small in total for even distribution to consumers throughout the country. As much as possible with be pre-empted for jam to be sold on the ration.

    Will a certain amount be allowed for householders to make their own jam?

    Milk (Pasteurisation)

    60.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will make available to Members of Parliament the details of the experiments which are claimed to have been made by veterinary surgeons, and their findings in connection therewith, contained in the resolution sent him from the National Veterinary Medical Association relative to the compulsory pasteurisation of milk in this country?

    My Noble Friend has received a copy of the resolution in question. It does not refer to any experiments by veterinary surgeons, but records the views of the National Veterinary Medical Association on certain aspects of milk policy.

    Ration Books And Identity Cards (Distribution)

    61.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the great hardship, inconvenience and dissatisfaction caused by the inadequate arrangements made in Bristol for issuing the new ration books; and whether he is taking any action in the matter?

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will inquire into the arrangements made in the city of Manchester for exchanging ration books; whether he is aware that persons had to stand in queues for several hours; and will he see that better arrangements are made in future?

    63.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he has considered the number of journeys which will be required of many housewives living in rural districts by the condition that a new ration book will only be issued for each member of a household on one of the dates allocated to the initial letter of the surname; and whether he will authorise all books for the same household to be collected on the same day by one person or sent by post?

    64.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that the national distribution of new ration books in rural areas is creating excessive and unnecessary inconvenience to the public; and whether he will take immediate steps to reorganise it, on the basis of distribution by parishes or otherwise?

    65.

    asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware that agricultural and other war workers in some rural districts have to travel as much as 14 miles each way to collect the new ration books; and whether, in view of transport and other difficulties, he will make other arrangements as soon as possible for local distribution?

    My Noble Friend is alive to the difficulties attending the present issue of new ration documents, clothing coupons and national registration identity cards. My Department has issued ration books on five previous occasions, and has always carried out this operation with the minimum of inconvenience to the public. There has been only one previous issue of identity cards, and that also was carried out, in the autumn of 1939, with no inconvenience to the public. On that occasion, however, 65,000 people were employed as enumerators, and they carried out their work by calling from house to house. The man-power available to-day does not permit of that procedure being repeated, and it has, therefore, been necessary to appeal to the public themselves to play a larger part in this national distribution of documents than on any previous occasion. For security reasons it is considered essential that the documents should be collected either individually or by proxy, so as to enable identity to be accurately checked and to ensure that the issue of a ration book will be conditional upon the correct establishment of each individual person's identity. It is for this reason that a centralised scheme of distribution has been adoped.

    To distribute documents to 43,000,000 people is necessarily a vast and compli- cated operation, demanding considerable patience and forbearance on the part of the public. In some urban areas, including Bristol and Manchester, congestion has occurred, but by increasing the staff, adjusting the accommodation, and arranging for the block issues of documents, the process has been or is being rapidly improved, and the latest reports assure me that in most town areas the congestion is now relieved.

    In rural areas, during the period of central issue now in progress every possible local expedient will be adopted for collecting documents of persons living in remote districts. In many such areas voluntary workers are already co-operating in this work, by collecting and checking existing documents in a village and returning later in the day with the new documents. In each food area the documents are being written up a few days in advance of the day on which they are to be issued to the public. When all the documents in an area have been prepared staff will be available to undertake local distribution through local sub-offices, either fixed or mobile. The location of these sub-offices will be notified in each locality.

    My Noble Friend recognises that the arrangements made have met with a considerable amount of criticism, but within the last eight or nine days it has become apparent that a high proportion of the public can be dealt with by the present arrangements without putting any individual to great inconvenience. My Department is determined that wherever adjustments, either of a general or local character, would appear likely to assist in the process of distribution those adjustments will be made, without quibble and with all speed, in order that this task may be completed without interfering with essential work or involving the public in special journeys, taking time and money. The new ration books will not come into use until 25th July. With good will and the co-operation of the public, every individual will have received his documents before that date.

    Is my hon. Friend aware that applicants have to walk or bus from their homes or their work, very often for considerable distances, from all parts of Bristol; that they have to stand in the open air for three or even four hours before they succeed in getting into the office; that many women have fainted; and that many do not succeed in getting their books, but are turned away when the office closes at eight o'clock? Does he not think that steps should be taken to avoid that waste of time?

    I think the hon. Member's description is a somewhat exaggerated account of the conditions obtaining in Bristol last week. An investigator was at once sent down. I think that the arrangement of block issue in the case of factories at Bristol, the rearrangement of accommodation, and the stepping-up of the staff have made conditions in Bristol very different this week from what they were last week.

    As it is impossible to do full justice to this scandal—[Interruption.] On a point of Order. If I do not give notice at this moment of my intention to raise this matter on the Adjournment, shall I lose my precedence? I am informed that I shall. That is the only reason why I intervene; I do not wish to prevent other Members from putting questions.

    While thanking my hon. Friend for his reply, and for the new arrangements which he has introduced, might I ask whether he will take special steps to follow up the working of these new arrangements, and to make sure that they do in fact relieve the very real hardships which have been caused already to quite a number of people by the quite inadequate arrangements? Also, will he in future make sure that he gets advice from people who understand conditions in rural districts before introducing schemes of this kind?

    Certainly, every effort will be made to make the adjustments to which I have referred work as smoothly as possible. I might say that some of these statements are somewhat exaggerated. I took the opportunity yesterday of visiting several rural areas, and the issues made varied very little from the expectations of the Department. I found a queue in only one place, and I found the public co-operating in this issue with all that phlegm and forbearance characteristic of the people of this country.

    If it is possible to make a block issue for factories, is it not possible to do so for remote villages; and for that purpose, could the hon. Member not use the emergency food officers in those places?

    I hope to be able to make block issues, and to go further than that. I hope to take the block issue to the remote villages, and to make the issue in the villages.

    As it is obvious that this scheme is now in the melting pot, will the Minister forthwith withdraw the rigid instructions which have been issued to the general public?

    In the adjustments that the hon. Member proposes should be made in the scheme, will he leave the distribution in the country areas to the discretion of the local executive officers?

    That is precisely what I meant when I said that every local expedient will be used. I am glad to say that many food executive officers are making adjustments which will suit the convenience of their localities; and doing so with the full approval of my Department.

    Why was it not possible to arrange for the distribution of these ration books by the W.V.S., whose services in other ways have given such satisfaction to the public?

    The W.V.S. are employed on many important tasks, and cannot be used for everything. Furthermore, there is an important element of security involved in this issue of identity cards. I am sure that hon. Members will recognise that there are perhaps people not doing ail that they should in this country, and we want to secure that they do not get food unless they, establish their identity.

    Is it not a fact that a good deal of responsibility rests upon local authorities? If they would have a number of distributing centres, as in West Ham, instead of one, would it not be better?

    What arrangements does the hon. Member propose for a household which contains six members whose names all start with different letters, and who have to go ten miles to the distributing office?

    That is a problem I am aware of. It is a problem which came particularly to my notice yesterday. I would not like my hon. and gallant Friend to press me now, but I am extremely anxious to secure that a number of journeys should not be made by a household where they are two, three, or four members with different initials, requiring visits on different days if the present arrangements are to continue. I hope we shall be able to meet that.

    As it is obvious that the original scheme has, in many cases at any rate, broken down, will the hon. Member take steps to notify local authorities responsible for the distribution of the cards that the original orders are at a standstill until he has had time to review the whole situation and to deal with it accordingly?

    I should be glad to know of any places where there is a breakdown. I must say, as I said before, that I found no evidence of a breakdown yesterday in the places I visited, which were fairly representative—large boroughs, small boroughs and rural districts. If the hon. and gallant Member will give me evidence of a breakdown, I will at once see that appropriate measures are taken; but I could not give any such general undertaking as he suggests.

    Has the hon. Member made it quite clear to local food executive officers that where they deem it necessary to open sub-offices, they have full authority to do so without delay?

    I have every reason to believe that my Noble Friend will be saying something of the sort in the course of the day.

    Could not the distribution be improved if it were made by streets rather than by suburbs?

    We have considered that, and we found that it would be even more complicated.

    In view of what the hon. Member said about security, will he take note of the second part of my former Supplementary, suggesting the utilisation of the existing emergency food officers in remote villages?

    Certainly I will take note of it. I think the hon. Member meant voluntary food officers?

    Will my hon. Friend take an early occasion to broadcast these conclusions, because there is widespread ignorance in the rural areas about what is required of them and how they are to fulfil the obligations which the new system entails?

    I will certainly submit the suggestion of my hon. Friend to my Noble Friend.

    In view of the importance of this matter, and of the difficulty of dealing with it by Question and Answer, I beg to give notice that I shall raise it on the Adjournment.

    Message From The Lords

    That they give leave to the Earl of it Drogheda to attend in order to his being I examined as a witness before the Committee of Public Accounts, if his Lordship think fit.